Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MyDD in Cincinnati

On The Ground in the OH-01

by Adam Conner, Tue Oct 31, 2006 at 12:43:54 PM EST

Yesterday I got a chance to sit down with OH-01congressional candidate John Cranley when I stopped by his campaign office. All eyes are focusing on his race against incumbent Steve Chabot. CBS Elections Analyst Dotty Lynch and Hotline Editor Chuck Todd have both named the OH-01 a bellwether race to watch as results come in on Election Night. Lynch notes:

There is no real bellwether, but my rule of thumb is to look at Republican incumbents in traditionally Republican states and districts to see how they are performing compared to last time for them and the Presidential vote in their states or districts...The Ohio competitive seats may be atypical because of the state's uniquely poisonous atmostphere, but OH-1 and OH-15 are my keys.

Before I spoke with the candidate, I met Marilyn Wellinghoff, a lifelong Cincinnati resident and an early volunteer for the Cranley Campaign. Marilyn is the kind of volunteer that campaigns die for, the indispensable kind who helps work long hours because she believes that Ohio, and America, are ready for change. Every campaign could use more volunteers like Marilyn and they're going to be one of our keys to victory on November 7th.

I spoke with John Cranley for a few minutes about how this election felt different then any other in recent memory, and he confirmed what I'd heard all over Ohio. The change message is especially powerful this year and a lot of Ohio Democrats are going to do well because of it.

Though young, Cranley seems a man of far more experience. He spoke quietly during our talk of his deep roots in the district and how the community needed a change. I asked him about how things were different from 2000, when he first ran against Chabot with no electoral experience and held him to just 53% of the vote. He said that the first time he ran he wasn't well known and was judged only be the D behind his name. Now, after being elected and re-elected to the Cincinnati City Council and building working relationships across the area, he much more than just a Democrat to the voters.

It's not easy to be the candidate in targeted, top-tier race (first wave of the DCCC's Red to Blue Program) running against a well-funded incumbent but Cranley seems to making all of the right moves at the right times.

One of the central points I discussed with Cranley was about his opponent, Steve Chabot, who came to Congress in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Wave elections have a tendency to sweep in weaker candidates but who, thanks to powers of incumbency, are difficult to remove. While other Ohio Congressman have quickly ascended through the ranks of power - Boehner to Majority Leader, former Congressman Rob Portman in the neighboring Second District to Trade Rep and then Head of OMB - Chabot has stayed firmly a backbencher in his 12 years in DC. The Cincinnati Enquirer noted this in its endorsement of Cranley:

He went to Congress in 1994, part of the Republican sweep of that year, but others with as much or less time in the House have risen further and faster.

Many of the Congressman from the 94 election have gone on to bigger things (Santorum, Frist, Brownback, Ehrlich, Ensign, Graham, Coburn) but some of those who are still congressmen, like Hostettler in the IN-08 and Bass in the NH-02, look to be in trouble this year. Ironically, a wave may sweep out those who came to power on a similar wave 12 years ago.

Later, as I talked shop with Cranley's campaign manager Luke Blocher (seen above hard at work), he challenged my assumption that this race was only about the national environment. "This race would be competitive even without a national wave," he said, arguing that Ohio's current political environment plus a strong candidate would've made this a race regardless. But that wave can't hurt either.

(I'll probably be returning to OH-01 to ride out the Election after this trip is over)


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